Our After School Sensory Retreat

by Jenna Schade July 04, 2019

Our After School Sensory Retreat

At times, our Chloe struggles more than usual with self regulation and 'keeping up' with the demand on her... like when a big change occurs or a new school year starts.  Then even during calmer times, just a standard school day brings major sensory overwhelm.  For those of you who are also trying to help your exhausted, overloaded and emotional child every afternoon... you know what I'm referring to.

Here are some ideas I have gathered over the years from my experience with Chloe, and from my work with Occupational Therapists.  These are for the car trip home or throughout the afternoon once at home.  Our aim is to provide Chloe with an instant 'retreat' away from the sensory world as soon as she finishes school and hopefully help to calm an exhausted brain.

What I find helps (but not always all at the same time)...

- large dark sunnies as soon as we get in the car

- a favourite soft toy waiting for a cuddle in the car

- noise cancelling headphones (preferably audio ones with gentle music playing) in the car if appropriate

- sun shade over the side window to block out some of the chaotic visual input

- crunchy, cold food in the car (like celery or cucumber)

- weighted lap blanket in the car (if not too hot)

- go straight home if possible so that self-regulation can be supported in a safe, familiar environment (especially in the first few weeks of a new school term)

- don't ask many (or any) questions until later in the evening

- have a design or inventing task waiting at home (apparently inventing is the solution to big emotions like anger or worry... as when the brain is INVENTING it's almost impossible for it to also be angry at the same time)

- a vibration cushion in the car or at home (this can calm racing, anxious thoughts as the brain is flooded with the vibration message)

- a visual relaxer (like a bubble timer, glitter stick or lava lamp) in the car or at home, to bring focus of attention and support a calm feeling

- reduce anxiety by following the same routine (supported by a visual chart and/or a calendar if possible) every day... thereby reducing the 'unknown' factor which can feel very unsafe and alarming

- lavender oil in the bath (we have found that doing dinner first, then bath is a better routine for settling into bedtime)

- a very early bedtime during the school term, by blocking out natural light with curtains in summer, turning most lights off, and playing meditation or relaxation music

- deep pressure massage using hands or a gym ball, applying firm even pressure in a continuous motion from head to toes and back again

I know this list is long... but you could always start with a few tips that sit well with you, and adjust from there. Follow your instincts and you'll be surprised at what a difference these sensory changes can make!


Jenna Schade
Jenna Schade


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